Back in November of 2015, Tough Mudder announced the creation of the ‘Tough Mudder Half’. As described on the Tough Mudder website, the Half is “designed to test teamwork and grit on a 5-mile obstacle course without fire, ice or electricity. It’s all the mud with half the distance and the first step to joining a community of 2 million strong around the world.” Tough Mudder understands that there is a segment of racers out there that may not be ready for a full 10 – 12 mile event and thus, the Half was born – and it’s Northeast debut is where I found myself this past Saturday morning.
Until this summer, I was a Tough Mudder virgin. I’ve been running OCR’s since the summer of 2012, but in full disclosure, the thought of electrocuting myself, willingly, wasn’t quite as appealing as jumping over walls or conquering a rope climb. Over time however, I began to see the appeal – overcoming your fears in an effort to explore the true appreciation of the life we live. My only regret is that it took me this long to jump on the Tough Mudder bandwagon.
Tough Mudder isn’t concerned with how long it takes you to finish, but it is made very clear that they care that you DO finish.
For those who have not experienced Tough Mudder, it is difficult to describe the appeal of this event, but I think it can be narrowed down to a few simple things: teamwork. camaraderie. conquering your fears, and of course, physical achievement. Tough Mudder isn’t a Spartan Race. It’s not a Savage Race or Battle Frog. There is no timing chip. Other races would rather see you defeated (See my Montreal Ultra Beast review); however, Tough Mudder wants to see you succeed. I’m guessing the brass at Tough Mudder doesn’t care about saving a few bucks on swag that they don’t have to issue out for folks that DNF. Quite the opposite. Tough Mudder has you swimming in swag from the moment you enter the festival area.Check in is simple. Show your confirmation code, email, or phone number and you’re assigned a bib on the spot. No packets to be stuffed, no bib numbers to look up. Bag check is a very affordable $5 USD, which comes with a huge covered, secured tent that is manned all day by members of “Mudder Nation”. Your path to the start line isn’t without encouragement, that’s for sure. You’re given the choice of pre-workout drinks by Cellucor, one of Tough Mudder’s premier sponsors, and another sponsor, Merrell, is also onsite in case you pull a “me” and forget your shoes on race day. You’re taken then into a starting corral where you’re warmed up by the Tough Mudder deejay – a good way to get your blood flowing and get yourself amped up for an awesome day of conquering obstacles.
From the shoot of Tough Mudder Northeast, you were met with a few simple flats to get the nerves out, before heading into a few mud crawls and inverted walls. Again, the main theme of Tough Mudder being teamwork ensures you’re not going to run into many “hotshots” who want to blow past you in order to hurdle an obstacle with speed and precision. I’d consider it more a “You go, I go” mindset. I quickly learned that, before I got myself over any obstacle, it was my duty as a newly indoctrinated Mudder to get someone else over the obstacle first. It started simple with 10-fingers at the walls, to letting folks stand on my shoulder to get over the Mud Mile. It got better and better as the course went on. Tough Mudder’s obstacles are amazing enough to conquer solo but even more rewarding when you see others do them by your side. At one point, I found myself hanging upside down, my feet being held by two girls I had never met before, just so I could help one Matt B. Davis get up Pyramid Scheme – a slick wall requiring teamwork in order to scale its face. That favor was then returned as other Mudders helped haul my ass up Everest 2.0 – a signature obstacle for Tough Mudder. It was shortly after Everest that the Half course broke off onto its own track towards the finish line. You had a real sense of achievement in the obstacles you conquered during the Half without having to completely overcome those fears that may have kept you from registering for a Full – however, I can’t imagine anyone finishing this race and not immediately wanting to sign up for another event, especially since they tease you with views of Electroshock Therapy and other great obstacles as you cross the finish line.
I had the chance to interview finishers of the Half, and the common theme was quite prevalent: “Awesome.”, “So much fun!”, “The camaraderie on the course was amazing!” Look for the video here on ORM, coming soon but don’t wait that long to register for the next Tough Mudder Half in your area – the list of upcoming events can be found here.
If you’re still on the fence, know this: Tough Mudder takes care of its racers. There was never a concern that I would be without hydration on the course. Five to six water stops were intelligently placed throughout the Half and Full courses, complete with huge buckets of water that could easily serve 12 – 15 racers simultaneously. If you needed energy to continue, there was also Cellucor Aminos, bananas and fit bars to get you through to your complimentary beer the end. Other events could stand to take a few pages out of Tough Mudder’s book when it comes to on-course nutrition and hydration.
Overall, the Tough Mudder Half Northeast was an amazing race. The racers I spoke with on Saturday shared in my enthusiasm for this particular event, and Tough Mudder as a series. I’ll absolutely be back.
To hear more on my Tough Mudder experience, check out the New England Spahtens Show podcast, where myself, Paul Jones and 21-time Mudder finisher Sandy Rhee discuss this weekend’s race and all things OCR.
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